Actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan went down memory lane talking about his iconic film Virumandi while hosting season four of Bigg Boss Tamil earlier this year. The movie came up for discussion as fans celebrated 17 years of its release during Pongal this year, and it was also due to release on Amazon Prime Video at the time. Kamal was more than happy to discuss this beloved film, which faced a lot of resistance in the run-up to its theatrical release.
Kamal took great delight in calling the film by its original name Sandiyar. “I think my dear child is now 17. At home, we endearingly call him Sandiyar. And, others call him Virumandi. But, Sandiyar is the name I gave him at birth. So I will say it one more time, Sandiyar,” Kamal said, with a wink. Now, there is a history and emotional baggage behind the actor’s comment.
For the uninitiated, Kamal Haasan faced a slew of problems while making Virumandi, which he also directed, in addition to writing, producing and acting in it. Dr S Krishnaswamy, leader of Puthiya Thamizhakam, took exception to the film’s original title, Sandiyar. He alleged that the title glorified people who indulged in violence. And eventually, Kamal was forced to change the title to Virumandi.
However, the controversy had upset Kamal a lot, and he went on a rare public rant for two minutes straight. “I can’t name this film Sandiyar because brother Krishnaswamy will get mad. I thought that I could name this film ‘Kitty Vasal’. But, Kitty is Krishnaswamy’s nickname, so I was worried that might also make him upset. I thought of naming it Arangetram. But, it’s already taken and my mentor (K. Balachander) will be upset. I even thought of the name Avvaiyar. But, there is no connection between Avvaiyar and this film. We can’t call it Murattu Kaalai because Rajinikanth will get upset. If we name it Parasakthi, Kalaignar will get upset. I don’t know what to do. I even thought of names like Adimai Penn, Aayirathil Oruvan (MGR films). Later, I thought I will name it Chummaa,” said a visibly upset Kamal, taking a swipe at those who objected to the film’s title at the time.
In the video, Kamal Haasan also takes on the self-proclaimed guardians of Tamil culture. “Tamil culture is very important. It’s something that keeps changing every five years like our politicians. And to protect this (ever-changing) culture is important,” he said derisively.
“I am very confused. I am thinking of quitting movies and devoting myself to protecting the culture,” the actor added.
Virumandi was a critical and commercial success when it released in 2004. It was an anti-capital punishment film set in a rural backdrop. And Kamal played the role of a village toughie with a good heart. However, his naivety costs him dearly as he falls victim to treachery and vengeance.